September 25, 2018

The Week in BIG Ideas Volume 8

By Beverley Hammond
Founder & CEO

 

As we evolve from BIG Ideas to Zeitlines, you will see a change in approach to this blog. Today is the first step in that process.  Coming soon - a new logo, new content platforms and some variety in the style of content like long(er) form pieces thanks to really thought-provoking fodder from Kent and Corrigan Hammond.

In the meantime, on this cold, rainy Tuesday, Volume 8 is all about the weather, along with one of my favourite past-times when it’s preferable to stay inside.

It was a rainy day…

 

Raining Cats and Dogs? There’s an App for that.

 

Canadians love to talk about the weather and we are known the world over for that predilection. Experts suggest it is because we live in a vast country with such tremendous weather swings that it actually IS a legitimate topic of interest for us. Here I thought it was just my fall-back conversation starter when I had nothing else to say.

Of course, with all of the coverage about the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence south of the border in the Carolinas and closer to home the tornado that wrought severe damage on Eastern Ontario, there has been a lot to talk about.

Turns out contemplating weather can be lucrative, as well.  A few years ago, David Friedberg was commuting through San Francisco and noticed that the bike rental depot near the train station was closed every day that it rained. It started him thinking about how many other businesses were negatively affected by bad weather. Apparently a lot. From there, Friedberg hatched the idea for Climate Corp – a big data company that helps businesses impacted by weather and climate change plan for profit. He sold the company to Monsanto for $930 million in 2013.

Ironically when @cheeziefreak prompted me to look into weather apps, we weren’t even talking about the weather. We were talking about an idea she had for a ridiculously funny lifestyle app. And this is why I LOVE having curious, creative minds in my life. One just never knows where the conversation will lead. This one led me in a lot of directions as any banter with @cheeziefreak is prone do (some of which will show up here in future blogs) and it led me down the rabbit hole of weather apps. Yes, there is a weather app rabbit hole and more down that hole than I had time to count (literally). Who knew?

Weather apps can tell us what the weather is today and for the next couple of weeks, but they do not reliably warn about severe weather events like the recent tornado because their forecasts are built automatically, without meteorologists sifting through predictions from multiple computer models.

They sure can offer some cheeky commentary though (especially on a day like today) and for those interested, they even provide fashion advice.

This morning when I checked the weather on WT Forecast (aka WTF), the message on the animated screen read: “’Another beautiful rainy day’. Said no one ever.”

Humorcast, another freebie forecaster greeted me with “It’s Drizzy so expect a Lil’ Wayne” and when I checked The Funny Weather: “It's cloudy like Snoop Dogg’s general existence.”

So, three apps doing the same schtick - weather and comedy – with different jokes and imagery. Seems like it would be saturation in weather reporting. But alas no. The Grumpy Cats Funny Weather app features quotes from and images of – you guessed it - grumpy cats providing “fur-casts” [*GROAN*]. Then there is Weather Kitty: Forecasts and Cats; along with Weather Puppy: Forecasts and Dogs.  All pretty self-explanatory.

Then there are the fashion apps. WTHRD – Weather and Clothing provides weather updates and suggestions about what to wear for the weather (in case you weren’t sure how to dress  on a rainy day?!)  Layers – Wardrobe and Weather allows you to input your favourite outfits and it will tell you which one of those to wear based on the forecast. Holding Steve Jobs up as the example of success, this app “wants to help you free your mind from the rigors of daily fashion decisions”.

Sheesh! These are just the freebies. People actually PAY to get the same information served up in different ways.

WeatherEh bills itself as a truly Canadian app designed for Canadians “from coast to coast” that uses environment Canada data for the most accurate weather. It is $3.99.  If I’m not mistaken Canadians from coast to coast can actually get Environment Canada weather data for free.

For appreciators of weather made beautiful (not to be confused with beautiful weather) you can pay $2.75 and get Wild Weather - the weather report along with gorgeous illustrations; and for a whopping $5.49 Clear Day presents weather forecasts in a “stunning way never found anywhere on the app store.” According to the New York Times, “Clear Day elevates the user, placing her at cloud level for a hushed real-time weather tableau that puts the web’s goofy sunshine-rain-cloud icons to shame.” Whatever that means. Personally, I don't get it.  No matter how much one enjoys talking about the weather, there simply cannot be a market for these many iterations of the same thing. Can there?  Well, according to Clear Day, that app has been downloaded six million times. Six million downloads X $5.49. These apps are doing more than reporting rain, they are making it.

In a Word: Game-Changer

 

This week my favourite board game just got a whole lot easier with no less than 300 new words added to the Scrabble dictionary.

Oh, to be the person who gets to decide what words go into the Scrabble dictionary! Next to being either Merriam or Webster themselves, I can’t think of anyone more important. Turns out that guy is Peter Sokolowski, editor-at-large at Merriam-Webster, a lexicographer and probably the real life version of the most interesting man in the world!

The Merriam-Webster dictionary added 800 words earlier this year, but still, where did those 300 new Scrabble words come from?  First let’s look at some of them: Twerk, sriracha, aquafaba, bitcoin, beatdown, zomboid, sheeple, wayback, bibimbap, botnet, emoji, facepalm, frowny, hivemind, puggle, yowza and bizjets.

Wait what?  “OK” and “sriracha” weren’t already in there? I guess I’ve been unknowingly cheating for some time now.

According to Sokolowski, “OK is something Scrabble players have been waiting for, for a long time…Basically two- and three-letter words are the lifeblood of the game.”

Some of the new additions are foreign words that have been adopted into the English language. Others are simply new words because they are the names of new concepts – take bitcoin for example and even emoji. Yes, an emoji is a thing. In this time of rapid change, I get that. But still others, it seems, are simply slang.

I struggle with this shift to making even oft-used slang acceptable. Feels more devolution than evolution of the game to me. To quote a recent Techcrunch article. “while English burns, Scrabble plays the fiddle”. Admittedly, despite my protestations, I will no doubt find an opportunity to use “bizjets”.  That's 25 points. “Yowza”!

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If you’re enjoying this blog, please pass it on and feel free to share any ideas – your own or others – with me at bev@republicstory.com, using the Subject Line: Here’s a BIG Idea!

Until next week, this was The Week in BIG Ideas!

BH